Welcome to the New Look ACC

The 2004 schedule was released Monday afternoon, and if you're like me, you're already checking out travel web sites for reservations in Tallahassee, Miami, and College Station, Texas.

Coming off a 9-4 season that saw wins over two teams ranked within the top 6 in the country, and a dominating 46-point win over archrival South Carolina, the Clemson Tigers are aiming for new heights in 2004.

The only problem is, the schedule isn't getting any easier.

With the addition of Miami and Texas A&M to the 2004 schedule, which are both road games by the way, the drive towards a conference championship will undoubtedly be an uphill climb.

Welcome to the new look ACC.

The 2004 football schedule for the Clemson Tigers was officially released by the Atlantic Coast Conference Monday afternoon, and by all accounts, its safe to say that this fall has the potential to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.

The Tigers will open the 2004 campaign with consecutive home games against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech before later traveling to Texas A&M, Florida State, and Miami.

So just how tough is the 2004 schedule?

According to one preseason poll, it may be one of the most difficult in the country. One of the earliest preseason rankings available that has some credibility put out by ESPN, has the Tigers facing #5 Miami, #6 FSU, #8 Maryland, and #20 Virginia. Incidentally, Clemson comes in at #13 on that very same list.

Three out of four of those games are on the road and will come against teams that Clemson has tradionally struggled with in recent years.

The Tigers haven't beaten FSU in Tallahassee since 1989, gone 2-2 against Virginia since 2000, and have yet to beat Ralph Friedgen at Maryland since his arrival 3 years ago.

"It's the toughest schedule I've had as a head coach," said Tommy Bowden. "There's no doubt. You look at the teams we play, and the teams we play on the road, and almost all of them are capable of getting to a bowl."

In 2004, Clemson must also figure out a way to solve the complex running game and stingy defensve of Wake Forest, not to mention travel to one of the most difficult places in the country to play in College Station, Texas to take on the Texas A&M Aggies.

Anybody going ahead and chalking up a win over a team that finished 4-8, obviously has never been to a game played at Kyle Field against the vaunted "Wrecking Crew" defense.

"Coach Franchione won 7 games during his first year, but then won 10 in his second at Alabama," said Tommy Bowden. "They've had some good recruiting classes there under R.C. Slocum, so it will be a challenge for us to go there and win."

At the same time, even with an extremely tough schedule directly on the horizon, you can't help but feel excited.

Excited about the way the 2003 season ended. Excited about recruiting, and excited about the challenges that lie ahead for Clemson football.

Welcome to the new look ACC. The fun has just begun.

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